Ross Anderson says Kelly Atkinson is misinterpreting his opposition to the death penalty and trying to manipulate primary voters.
Monday evening Anderson and Atkinson, the Democratic candidates in the 2nd Congressional District race, answered questions before a local meeting of the NAACP. In response to a question, Anderson said the state of Utah "murdered" William Andrews. Andrews was executed in 1992 for his part in the notorious Hi Fi Shop killings in Ogden in 1974.Atkinson didn't directly respond to Anderson's statements Monday night. But Tuesday Atkinson issued a press release saying that Utah didn't commit any murders, Andrews and his accomplice, Dale Pierre Selby, committed "one of the most heinous crimes in this community's memory." Anderson should remember that, said Atkinson. "Accusing Utah of murder for applying the death penalty to the Hi Fi murders is not a moderate position, not a liberal position, it is a radical position and it will be utterly rejected by mainstream Utah voters in November," said Atkinson.
Andrews and Selby were black, the victims white. And groups and individuals opposed to Andrews execution say race played a part in the trial and death sentences. Andrews didn't shoot the victims, Selby did, and Andrews had left the downstairs storage room before Selby shot the five people. But Andrews did help torture the victims by making them drink Draino and didn't stop Selby from shooting them. Three of the victims died.
Said Anderson: "When I used the word `murder' in connection with the execution of William Andrews, I simply expressed my belief that the taking of William Andrews' life - as with the taking of anyone's life - was morally wrong."
Anderson said that on the death penalty issue he's among a small percentage of people who oppose capital punishment. "However, not withstanding the (public opinion) polls - which drive so much of what Mr. Atkinson says and does - I have always had the personal view that, except for self-defense, the killing of another human being is wrong, whether by one person or by a community."
Anderson said he doesn't condone what Andrews did. "In fact, it is a reaffirmation of the principle that all killing is wrong. That's my reading of the First Commandment." He reiterated previous statements that the death penalty isn't of any great importance in a congressional race. "Mr. Atkinson's blatant exploitation of this controversial issue is political sensationalism at its worst and detracts from the dialogue on federal issues of great concern to all voters," said Anderson.
He said primary voters will reject Atkinson's stands on wilderness, his opposition to a balanced budget amendment, his willingness to trade off public lands, his "hostility toward equal treatment under the law for gays and lesbians" and his willingness to let "political expediency determine his positions on issues like gun control, abortion, light rail and wilderness."